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At-Home HPV Tests Could be Effective One Day

Update Date: Jan 31, 2014 02:38 PM EST

In order to detect cervical cancer at its earliest point, women are recommended to get annual tests screening for precancerous cervical cells. These tests are typically conducted at the doctor's office where the doctor collects swabs and sends them to the laboratory for testing. In a new study, researchers found that an at-home test where women collect samples on their own could yield the same accurate results. However, the researchers cautioned that at-home HPV tests still need a lot more research and should not be considered an alternative screening tool just yet.

"We want the current screening programs to continue to run," said Marc Arbyn, who is from the Unit of Cancer Epidemiology at the Scientific Institute of Public Health in Brussels, Belgium. Arbyn is the review's lead author. "We do not want to promote self-sampling procedures over doctor's visits just yet."

For this study, Arbyn and colleagues analyzed 36 previously conducted studies on a total of 154,556 women. With this data, the researchers were able to compare the accuracy between the HPV tests performed by physicians and the at-home tests done by women. The researchers calculated that on average, the HPV tests conducted by the patients were capable of detecting 76 percent of moderate precancerous activity and 84 percent of severe cervical cancer growth. The researchers reported that these at-home tests were 11 percent less sensitive in detecting precancerous growth than the tests performed by a physician.

"Most cervical cancer cases reside in women who do not make regular clinic visits. It's unacceptable to have a status quo where a preventable cancer continues to occur among women," said Attila Lorincz of Queen Mary University in London, who was not involved in the study reported by FOX News. "This study is a sort of challenge to health authorities. It is a way of asking them, 'Are you doing all you can to contact women by phoning or writing them?' If not, then it may be time to consider self-sample tests."

The researchers reiterated that at-home tests are by no means supposed to replace physician testing as of right now. The researchers stressed the need to create an organized system of using at-home tests once these tests are deemed as effective and safe as the tests done by doctors. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 4,000 women died in 2010 due to cervical cancer. Early detection and good screening tools is key in reducing that number.

The study was published in the journal, Lancet Oncology.

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